Addressing Sleep Challenges using Functional Medicine

Michelle Velan, Founder of Wondersource

A few years back there were a few months in a row where I couldn’t sleep. I was exhausted at night but tossed and turned or would wake up at odd hours. Finally I’d had enough and I went to see my doctor. I was underwhelmed with the well intentioned advice: meditate more. Insert eye roll emoji. I already had a consistent meditation practice, so clearly something else was going on. 

After some research, I came across functional medicine and eventually a practitioner who recommended blood and hormone tests to determine what was going on. Functional testing looks at the levels of key hormones and neurotransmitters in the body to identify any imbalances.

Turns out I had a cortisol imbalance. Cortisol is the body’s primary stress hormone and an imbalance can come about due to extremely high stress or prolonged stress resulting in all-day low energy, feeling “wired but tired”, lack of focus, anxiety and irritability as well as trouble falling and staying asleep.

It was a relief to be able to identify what was happening and I immediately started on a new protocol, which included a holistic approach of reducing stress levels, taking supplements including probiotics, improving my diet, removing lifestyle behaviors that were exacerbating the imbalance like too many HIIT classes, intermittent fasting and coffee on an empty stomach. 

And let me tell you, I was quickly able to transition into experiencing deep sleep at night. I want to share with you some of that protocol here in hopes that if you’re struggling with something similar, you’ll know there are cures out there, you just need to find the right professional to work with. 

For mental and emotional health, learning some basic tools, working with a functional medicine practitioner to ensure there are no underlying issues, talking to a trained therapist, coach or counselor about what’s on your mind can help to process experiences and get them out of your body. Working with a trained expert like a reiki practitioner, energy healer or emotional freedom technique practitioner can also help manage stress and heal trauma. Regular meditation, breathwork, exercise and journaling has also been critical to my ongoing well-being. 

If you’ve heard the saying ‘it all leads back to the gut’ you’ll know how big a role nutrition and digestion plays in our overall health. While weight such as obesity can contribute to sleep issues, I’m talking more about the nutrients you get daily. I did an assessment of my nutrient intake to learn where deficiencies lie especially when it came to sleep. 

Supplements with calming and sleep-enhancing effects became part of my regimen. According to Dr. Frank Lipman, sleepy supplements include: magnesium (300-600 mg.), the amino acids L theanine (100-500 mg), taurine, GABA and 5 HTP (50-100 mg.) and herbals like lemon balm, chamomile, passionflower, magnolia and valerian root can all contribute to a better night’s sleep. Try one at a time, a half-hour or hour before bedtime and see which one works best for you.

The above is not a prescription as your health is unique to you. This is exactly why I’m an advocate of functional medicine as it focuses on the underlying causes of health conditions. It aims to optimise one’s health and prevent future diseases by considering each patient’s unique background (including genetics, lifestyle, diet) and identifying the root issues. A range of treatments and personalised programmes are then administered with a focus on natural solutions and therapies that have fewer side effects for patients. In essence, functional medicine treats the whole person, not just the symptoms. 

To this day, I follow the main learnings from the protocol I was given to ensure I get enough sleep. In fact, it was this experience that led me to launch Wondersource and bring holistic healthcare to employees and individuals. The certified functional medicine practitioners that we partner with are at the top of their game. Interested in learning more or booking a session with them? Schedule a free consult as we’re happy to help. We also offer functional medicine packages and workshops to companies to help employees optimise their health and sleep and reduce stress. Reach out at to learn more.

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